Hi, WeLoveDC readers. I’m back. Baby in the City is an occasional series exploring what it’s like to live a specifically urban-dwelling lifestyle with a baby. (Nothing but love for you suburban-dwelling minivan drivers, it’s just not for me.)
I am a city mouse. When we moved 7 blocks from a Metro station and across the street from a bus stop, we promptly became a one-car family. I take transit or bike as much as I can and have become allergic to looking for parking downtown. My smartphone is full of apps for navigating transit (in multiple cities!), hailing cabs, finding bike routes, and reserving carshare vehicles. I’m a city-loving, multi-modal lady.
And then we found out I was pregnant. And for a moment, I wavered- did we need a second car? Something with lots of cargo space for toting around strollers and whatnot? Was I going to have to get good at… parallel parking?! (You guys, I am so not good at parallel parking.)
But of course I won’t- plenty of people transport their pre-walking children around the city without a car all day because they have to. It’s not that hard to make it work when you want to. But like anything else involving a baby, it requires a little bit of planning. Here’s what I’m learning as a new parent getting around town with a very small baby:
Forget the car seat/stroller frame combo unless part of your trip plan for the day involves, you know, a car. They’re less maneuverable than a proper stroller, and if you’re planning to take the bus* at any point, or get into a Metro station where the elevator is out of service or at the wrong end of the station, you’re going to have to fold up whatever wheeled apparatus you have with you and carry it and the baby anyway. If your car seat is like mine, it weighs a ton even before you put a baby in it (which especially sucks if you’re just a few weeks out from a C-section, like I am). Unless your plans involve Zipcar, taxi, or meeting up with a friend with a car, literally the only advantage to the car seat stroller is that if you get tired or are running late, you can bail out and take a cab. Take a real stroller and save yourself some grief. (You did buy a lightweight, quick-folding one meant for city living, right?)
*All strollers must be folded before you board Metrobus. The Circulator allows some very lightweight, umbrella-style strollers to remain unfolded so you can wheel your kid right onto the bus without removing her from the stroller, but these are the kinds of strollers you’d typically use with an older child, once you get tired of wheeling around your urban-assault stroller all the time.
Bookmark the WMATA elevator outages page so you can plan your route to avoid as many fold-up-the-stroller incidents as you can.
Get a good carrier and master the art of babywearing. The best carrier is a highly individual choice (seriously, borrow some from your child-having friends and test drive them before buying), but if you can comfortably strap the baby to your body and walk around like that for a few hours without too much strain on your back, getting around on transit will be a lot easier. You’ll lose the handy ability to stow stuff underneath the stroller and you won’t have the always-available place to put the baby down, so this option may be best for shorter trips rather than all-day jaunts around the tourist spots, but it can’t be matched for ease-of-transit-use.
This spring: Getting around with a baby by bicycle.